Yesterday, I woke up with a smile on because my room did not smell like death in a garbage can, only to have it turn into a bit of a frown when I started to take a shower and had no hot water. I seemed to be cursed with hotel issues on this trip, in general. I think I will fire myself from ever picking another hotel room again – I seem to just suck at it (Ugh, two times being fired in one year – boooo!). After getting dressed, I went out to my favorite café for a cappuccino and a ciambella (do you remember what those are?!), only to find they were closed, so I had to go to the crabby-lady-café instead. I guess 1 out of 3 today isn’t bad, so I will press my luck a little farther this afternoon and go for a tour of the Chianti region of Toscana.
It is supposed to rain the rest of the weekend, so I decided today may be my best bet. The tour includes a wine tasting at Sant Appiano Vineyards at the end, so I decided that I would get some lunch and hydrate prior to the festivities. I had a lovely Tortellini with Ragu and Porcini Mushrooms (which look an awful lot like ravioli, but it’s pasta, so does it really matter if it is tortellini, ravioli, or tagliatelle? No, it is all homemade and I love it!).
As I got onto the bus, there was a woman from New York asking the guide for a detailed itinerary of the afternoon. He told her he would give her all of the information on the bus, so that he could tell everyone at the same time (a reasonable idea, I think). She was in a huff as she said, “I’m just making idle chit-chat.” To which the guide replied, “I do not know what this means.” Do you know why?! Because Americans are the only ones who make “idle chit-chat” and New Yorkers seem to do it more often than most. I have observed because they seem to be of the opinion that they know more, and have done more, than everyone else on the planet, and they feel the need to share it ad nauseam with the rest of us. I opted to sit in the back of the bus, as far away from this woman as possible, since I was in no mood for the “idle chit-chat” she wanted to share with any sap who sat next to her, except for the people in her group (I think she had already worn her welcome out with them).
Chianti Classic is a region in Toscana between Siena and Firenza. During the middle ages, it served as a buffer of land between the two cites as they were constantly at war with one another. Today, the people from the two cites still don’t like each other much, unless Italy wins a soccer game and then all Italians are friends, but otherwise most of the people from one region do like the people from another region (much like Southerners can’t stand those damned Yankees, I suppose). During the Renaissance, however, those Medicis set about uniting the Tuscan region. The tour guide likened them as the Kennedys of the Middle Ages – “They have lunch with God and dinner with the Devil and everybody likes them.” (So this explains why they enjoyed the arts, loved fashion and made money laundering legal!)
During the last war between Siena and Firenza, the Sienese built the Monteriggioni Fortress as a blockade from the Florentines. Once the war was over (Florence and the Medicis won, by the way), the fortress sat empty for a number of years. The government tried to encourage Sienese to move to the village, but Siena is just about the most perfect place on earth, so no one budged. Then the government said whomever moved to the Monteriggioni Village would not pay taxes and, guess what happened? Monteriggioni is now full of residents – fancy that!
We did not stay long in the Village as the sun was setting and our guide reminded us, “we have an appointment at 5pm to get drunk.” Being the responsible one, who always follows all of the rules (pfffffftttttt!), I was the first one back on the bus ready to depart for Sant Appiano Vineyards. They provided us with several different kinds of chianti to sample, which were all excellent. As a small winery (as are most of the wineries in Italy), they typically only produce about 90,000 bottles of wine a year, average for a Tuscan vineyard. All of the grapes are picked by hand, which is why most Italian wine cannot be mass produced. Do you know what else this means? If you are like me, you probably won’t be allergic to Italian wines. Why? Because all of the stems, leaves and other crap that the machine pickers gather don’t get into the wine during the fermentation process! (Okay, I have been in Italy too long, I am starting to explain things like an Italian!) It is one of the first observations I made about the wine here (and I have drank enough to know by now), that it doesn’t make me sneeze or go into an asthmatic attack like crappy high-production wines do – furthering the point that I am indeed a frickin’ princess (insert eye roll and deep sigh here)
What better way to enjoy a glass of rich, full-bodied Chianti Classico, but with a Florentine Steak, grilled to medium-rare perfection, set atop a bed of fresh arugula and drizzled with a sweet balsamic and red wine reduction, served with a side of vegetable ratatouille? At least, I thought so as I dined at the Golden View Open Bar (“Golden View” because it overlooks the Ponte Vecchio – or the “gold bridge” as the locals call it). Not only does this restaurant peer-pressure you into having a glass of champagne upon arrival (aka they dispense that shit for free…holla!), but they have live jazz every night of the week while you dine (Jazz, as in the real stuff, none of that contemporary, new-agey crap). Thank goodness my hotel was a good distance away, so that I could time to walk off my meal while enjoying the warm November evening, and not be stuffed to the gills as I went fast asleep, not to wake up until 10:30am the next day! Woo-hoo!
The only thing I find missing in this decadent mixture of good food, good wine, and good music was you, my good friends. Salute!